Cognitive Fitness: Exercises to Boost Brain Function and Memory
We do many things to protect our bodies and keep them healthy. For example, we brush our teeth to prevent cavities and apply sunscreen to protect our skin. In the same way, we should be doing things that help keep and improve our cognitive fitness. Doing so increases our brain power and helps protect us from serious conditions such as dementia in old age.
What Are Brain Exercises?
These are activities that engage the brain, typically different parts of it. To be effective, you must participate actively, and the exercises have to activate the brain. Activities like watching your favorite movies and TV shows might be wholesome, but they are ineffective in this role because they do not require active participation. On the other hand, exercises and activities like playing computer games, playing a sport, solving puzzles, or even engaging with others are beneficial for cognitive fitness and function.
Below, we look at the best exercises and activities that improve memory and brain function.
Regular exercise is one of the best things we can do for our bodies, and it turns out that it is also great for improving cognitive fitness. Exercise does this in multiple ways.
Firstly, it engages the brain because exercise needs coordination and active participation. Secondly, it lowers the risk of inflammation oxidation linked to dementia. Thirdly, it increases the amount of blood that flows to the brain and reduces the risk of diabetes, stroke, and high blood pressure. These last three have been linked to the development of memory problems if they are left untreated.
The good news is that you do not have to engage in strenuous exercise to realize these benefits. Simple activities like walking, cycling, swimming, and yoga can bring fantastic health and cognitive benefits.
Playing a Sport
Tied to the previous point, playing a sport takes your exercise regimen to the next level. The best sports for cognitive function are those that require problem-solving and making quick decisions. Tennis is a great example because you have to consider where your teammate is, how fast you should run, how hard to hit the ball, and so on. There are a lot of decisions to make during a tennis match.
To get even more benefits, choosing a sport where you socialize with others is a good idea. Team sports push you to use your brain more because you have to pick up on what others are doing, think about how your decisions affect other players, make judgments, and pick up on what is going on.
Numerous studies show that games that engage different parts of the brain are great for maintaining and even boosting your brainpower. Games that test your memory, logic, critical thinking, decision-making, problem-solving, and reason have all been touted as being great for the brain.
Examples of such games include chess, jigsaw puzzles, card games, and word games like Scrabble or crossword puzzles. Playing these games routinely means you will get better at them as your cognitive fitness improves. As it does, you can increase the difficulty of the games you play.
You can also use tools that help increase the enjoyment of these games so that you do not get bored and stop playing. If you enjoy word games like Scrabble, you can use tools that help you create different words quickly from the random letters you get as you play the game. If you enjoy chess, there are numerous resources that will help you get better at the game and find new ways of enjoying it.
Test Your Recall
One of the best things you can do for your memory is to test your recall routinely. Start by making a list of things. It doesn’t matter what type of list you make, but a grocery list is an excellent option as it is one most people can relate to. Memorize the list and see how many items you can remember after an hour or two.
As you get better at recalling what is on your lists, make it more challenging. Include obscure and non-obvious items to see if you can remember those if they are included among the things you can typically remember easily.
Do Math in Your Head
With the technology we now carry around, it is easy to take out a smartphone, open the calculator app, and find the answer you want. Instead, try solving math in your head without using a smartphone, computer, pencil, or other aid. Doing math in your head has been shown to help with cognition and memory, especially in participants who do complicated math like this.
To take things further and challenge yourself even more, try doing math in your head while walking or doing another activity. The aim is to simultaneously activate and use as many parts of the brain as possible.
It is a fact that cognitive function and memory decline as we age. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do to improve cognitive function and memory and keep away conditions that affect cognitive function. Fortunately for us, there are lots of games and exercises that help us do just that.